The Best of Everything

[Shri Rama]“In splendor He is equal to the sun. In forgiveness He is equal to the earth. In intelligence He is equal to Brihaspati. In fame He is equal to Indra.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.9)

tejasā āditya samkāśaḥ kṣamayā pṛthivī samaḥ |
bṛhaspati samo buddhyā yaśasā vāsava upamaḥ ||

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What is God? How are we to recognize Him if we see Him? Is He even a He? Is it possible to know the Absolute, given that we have imperfect senses? We also have a tendency to cheat. We commit mistakes and are easily illusioned. Things and people trick us, so isn’t it possible that a person can make a display of magic and fool us into believing that they are the Supreme Lord?

Such tricks are indeed played on the innocent public. It takes a little intelligence to see past the display. A person of opulence in this world must first acquire it. Even if they are born into good circumstances, someone had to work to make that happen. The younger brother of Rama, Lakshmana, in the Ramayana says that good and bad things happen from action, but for any result there still must be an initial action.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

If a person has to work to earn a specific quality or feature, it means that they are not all-perfect. No matter how great the acquired opulence is, the fact remains that it had to be earned through some means. The individual was not endowed with such greatness from the time of birth. They had to be protected during youth, and afterwards they required the cooperation of the threefold miseries of life: those coming from nature, other living entities, and the body and mind respectively.

An interesting case study in this regard is Ravana, the infamous king of Lanka during ancient times. He had one ability that would easily fool even the modern day skeptic of religion. Known as the kama-rupa siddhi, Ravana could change his shape at will. His original form was of an ogre, known as a Rakshasa in Sanskrit. Ravana was rare even among ogres, as he had ten heads. He was ghastly to look at, but with his mystic perfection he could take on any appearance whenever he wanted.

He once used this ability to steal away the wife of another man. Ravana always boasted of his prowess, how he was feared throughout the world. Even the residents of the heavenly region did not want to mess with him. Yet he inherently knew that he was not God, for he required trickery in order to bring Sita back to Lanka.

[Shri Hanuman]In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana a messenger is speaking to the same Sita. He is sent by Rama, who is Sita’s beloved husband. The messenger is named Hanuman and he is in the form of a Vanara, which is a monkey-like creature. The Vanara is conspicuous in Lanka; therefore Sita is suspicious of his motives.

To prove that he is indeed sent by Rama, Hanuman reviews some of the qualities of the Lord. From Vedic literature we know that Rama is an incarnation of God. He has all the great abilities that fruitive work, empiric philosophy, meditational yoga, and strict renunciation and penance can bring. The notable distinction is that He possesses these features all the time.

Rama is the best in each category. Hanuman gives examples above. Rama’s tejas, or splendor, is like the sun. He appeared in the solar dynasty, the Ikshvaku line of kings. Rama’s forgiveness is like the earth. The earth remains steady despite bearing a great burden. So many living entities walk over it, and the earth does not budge.

Rama’s intelligence is like Brihaspati, who is the priest of the demigods. Rama’s fame is like Indra, the king of heaven. Indra is the leader of the demigods, and in Vedic literature his name is often used to make comparisons to greatness.

[Shri Rama]These are just a few of the categories in which Rama excels. Hanuman is an extension of Rama since he represents the Lord. Therefore through Hanuman’s efforts the glories of Rama continue to expand. The person who is the best of everything also has the best servant, one who infiltrates impenetrable areas and accomplishes the mission handed to him. Rama has the best wife, a person who loves unconditionally, without motivation and without interruption. Rama also has the best story, the Ramayana, whose every section illuminates the path of bhakti and its ability to triumph over even the most formidable enemies.

In Closing:

Even if best of everything acquired,

Work first still to get there required.

Only Supreme Lord remaining ever so,

Full in opulence wherever to go.

In every category the best,

Better than all others the rest.

In Hanuman having messenger like no other,

To this day still dear to wife and brother.

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